Taylor Vick’s records as Boy Scouts are easy to enjoy and even easier to underrate. Her songs move at an ambling pace; the clean-toned guitars pulse gently and the snares are tapped, while her voice never rises above a murmur. If a song from her latest album, Wayfinder, suddenly began playing out loud in a library, no one would raise an eyebrow.
But her songs intensify under scrutiny. Look closer, and knotty emotions sprout from those placid surfaces. Vick pays near-fetishistic attention to the minutiae of grief and heartbreak: The lyric sheet for Wayfinder quotes exchanges with old lovers and friends in their entirety—“You’d say, ‘Do you even try to see how you took what’s mine’/And I’d say ‘I don’t think you’re right/But here, you can have your light”—as if stating them for the record.
Vick is prolific—her Bandcamp holds five full-lengths and various EPs stretching back a decade. Like Car Seat Headrest’s Will Toledo, she sometimes recycles lyrics or ideas from her earlier work, not for lack of inspiration but to see what new truths they might yield. You sense she’s circling around her own songs, waiting to see where they might bring her if she just listens closely enough.
The meticulously spaced guitars, the sweet-sour snap of the chords, and the quiet discipline of the arrangements reveal a deep study of Elliott Smith, particularly the records he made once he migrated to a major label. Vick confirms the affinity on “That’s Life Honey” with the lyric “Bottle it up and you will surely explode,” a near-quote from a highlight of Smith’s 1998 album XO. Vick’s lyrics are more elemental than Smith’s, usually a few phrases boiled down to their essence, but she shares his care in word choice. Listen to her syllable placement in “I Get High”: “’Cause I exist/And I exert/I need a kiss/And some dessert.” The phonetics are as sticky as the melody.
Paying prolonged attention to Vick’s music reveals that she is uncommonly spectacular at the art of lyric-setting, which is the kind of thankless gift that usually disappears beneath the song’s surface. But once you notice it, her intelligence is at work with every word. On “Lighter,” she sings, “I always wonder, what do you find,” breaking the word “find” into three chromatically ascending pitches, lifting the melody upward until its shape has become more noticeable than the word it conveys. Her melodies deftly bundle up even lyrics that might look heavy on the page: “The ocean needs no one to blame,” she sings on “That’s Life Honey.” “It’s the master of beautiful rage/I’m the master of inexplicable shame.”
Vick spaces her instruments far apart in the mix but keeps all the voicings close, as if her music is hugging itself for protection in a faraway corner. Every song is midtempo, chugging along with the dreaminess of everyday life. If you want to glean something deeper, you have to lean in. Vick’s truths, like her melodies, are bite-sized, pungent: “Being myself’s a lot to ask,” she shrugs on “A Lot To Ask.”
Under cover of her protective solitude, Vick’s writing is funny, wry, ironic: “Not Today” laughs gently at grief’s persistence. “Could I let it go? Guess today’s not the day, is it,” she sings on the chorus. It’s a diaristic gesture, a joke so small you would never even bother to verbalize it. Maybe someone would see you smile to yourself, faintly, at the thought. Maybe they’d wonder what you were thinking. If they could hear that thought, as it buzzed past, it might sound a lot like Vick’s music.
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